2018 has already been dubbed another ‘Year of the Woman’ with record numbers of women running for political office.
Behind the scenes, women are also wielding more influence in the field of election administration. The growth of women occupying positions in elections, and the institutions devoted to running them, is indicative of the changes we have seen in the American workforce, and the career opportunities and professional choices available to women that were not open to women in our mothers’ and grandmothers’ generations.
It is worth remembering the decades of campaigning and petitioning for women’s suffrage, including rallies, parades, near riots, arrests, lawsuits, prison, hunger strikes, forced-feeding and attempts to silence women from speaking publicly. While some individual states permitted it a few years earlier, it wasn’t until 1920 that women finally attained universal enfranchisement when the 19th Amendment granted women the right to vote.
The presence of women in elections has steadily increased since then. While the EAC’s Election Administration and Voting Survey (EAVS) does not track registration and voting by gender (or race/ethnicity), U.S. Census Bureau Reports have shown that women have registered and voted in greater percentages than men since 1980.
To be sure, women have goals and dreams yet to be realized. Still, women have overcome significant barriers and made remarkable advances over the past hundred years in the ability to create the lives they want to live, including, if they so choose, to serve as professional election officials.
Today, in honor of International Women’s Day, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission is announcing a month-long “Women in Elections” campaign to coincide with Women’s History Month. During the month of March, we will interview several women at the heart of elections at the federal, Secretary of State, state election director and county level. We will also highlight other leaders, and the significant insight they have to share about elections, on the EAC’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
To me, the beauty of Women’s History Month, and recognizing the contributions women are making to the field of election administration, is about making the goal of equal opportunity a reality. I hope you will join me in honoring these women and the contributions they have made to the field. Follow the conversation at #WomeninElections.